Bryce Canyon Travel Tips
Bryce Canyon National Park Logistics
Location: Bryce Canyon National Park is located in Southwest Utah. The closest major airports are in Las Vegas (LAS), Nevada and Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah, each approximately 270 miles from the park. There are smaller airports in Cedar City (CDC), Utah (80 miles) and St. George (SGU), Utah (125 miles).
To reach Bryce from the north, take I-15 south to UT-20 (exit 95). Travel east on UT-20 to US-89. Follow US-89 south to UT-12. Travel east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits 1 mile inside the park boundary.
Fees and Permits:
7-day entrance passes to Bryce Canyon National Park cost $30 for vehicles and $15 per person for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The fee includes unlimited use of the free shuttle bus that runs from late May through early October.
When to visit:
The Bryce Canyon National Park visitor center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer tourist season (May through September). It’s open until 6 p.m. in spring (April) and fall (October). From November to March, the visitor center closes at 4:30 p.m. It’s not open on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Choosing the best time to visit Bryce Canyon just depends on what you’re looking for. Summer is the most popular time to visit Bryce, but spring and fall will have fewer people, and winter offers the chance of snowfall and winter activities.
Bryce Canyon climate and weather: Bryce Canyon National Park is located at a relatively high elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, meaning that it is much cooler than at Utah’s other national parks such as Zion, Canyonlands, and Arches. There’s no “best” time to visit Bryce Canyon–summer daytime temperatures are comfortable, spring and fall will have cool nights, and winter is the chilliest time of year with the greatest chance of snow (although snow is a possibility at this elevation year-round). No matter what time of year you visit Bryce, it’s a good idea to bring warm clothes!
To reach Bryce from the south through Zion National Park, take I-15 north to UT-9 (exit 16). Follow UT-9 east through Zion National Park to US-89. Travel north on US-89 to UT-12. Go east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits 1 mile inside the park boundary.
GPS coordinates of park entrances: There is one main entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park, located on UT 63 south of its intersection with UT 12. GPS: 37.640620, -112.168957
A small section of the park’s northern end, including the Mossy Cave Trail, can be accessed from UT 12 a short distance east of its junction with UT 63.
Overnight options inside Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon Lodge is definitely worth a look. Built in 1924–25 of local stone and timber, it is one of those classic, timeless artifacts of rustic elegance from the early days of automobile tourism in America. Rooms and cabins are available April to mid-November. Call (877) 386-4383 or go to brycecanyonforever.com for reservations. Other lodging options are available outside the park’s main entrance near the junction of UT 12 and UT 63, as well as in the town of Panguitch, located about a half hour northeast of the park.
Bryce has two campgrounds, Sunset Campground (100 sites, drinking water, no hookups) and North Campground (99 sites, drinking water, RV dump station during summer season, open year round), and both have drinking water and pull-through sites, but no hookups. Both campgrounds also accept reservations from early May through late September—a good idea, because these campgrounds are popular and fill up fast. If you don’t have a reservation, make sure you arrive early in the morning to increase your odds of securing a site. The campgrounds are both located in ponderosa pine forests that offer some shade.
Geography and geology
Bryce Canyon National Park is acknowledged as having the most stunning sandstone scenery in the American West and is especially famous for its pink and orange spires and hoodoos. A visitor center, campgrounds, scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and the most extraordinarily sculpted landscape on Earth are hallmarks of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Bryce Canyon National Park forms the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. In fact, Bryce Canyon is not so much a canyon as it is a series of amphitheaters created by erosional forces of the Paria River system along the edge of the plateau. As the streams traveled eastward over the edge and down the slope of the plateau, its waters gained velocity and began to carry away bits of the Claron Formation. As this process continued, gullies cut deeply into the plateau, exposing layers of rock. These gully walls then became vulnerable to other forms of erosion, primarily through trickling water and the freeze-thaw cycle.
During warm seasons water trickles down the gully walls, slowly dissolving the carbonates that bind the sedimentary rock together. Sediment layers containing rich deposits of lime, carbonates, and dolomite are more resistant to this erosion than lime-poorlayers of siltstone and clay. In many instances more resistant layers overlie, or cap, less resistant layers. The caprock then protects the underlying layers from further erosion, resulting in the spectacular hoodoos and spires that tower above the canyon floor.
Theodore Roosevelt recognized the importance of protecting the unspoiled character of the Bryce amphitheater, and he established a national forest there in 1905. Shortly after, a road was built, and Bryce Canyon began to develop as a tourist attraction. As word spread of the scenic wonders here, Bryce was declared a national monument in 1923 and was elevated to national park status in 1928.
Nearest groceries and supplies:
The General Store (located between North Campground and Sunrise Point, open mid-April through late September) has camping equipment, groceries, pay showers, and laundry facilities. The rest of the year these services can be found outside the park at Ruby’s Inn.
Most supplies and services can also be found in the nearby town of Panguitch, located about a half hour northeast of the park.
Hiking Safely in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is ideally suited to day hiking. The many trailheads that can be accessed off the park road open up a world of possibilities for getting out, stretching your legs, and enjoying the best scenery Bryce has to offer.
Before embarking on any hike in Bryce Canyon National Park, hikers should make sure they carry several essential items. First and foremost is water. Bryce Canyon is extremely hot and dry during summer. Water sources below the rim are severely limited and must be treated prior to consumption. As a rule, always carry ample water to last the duration of the hike, and then some. Carry sunscreen, eye protection, and a hat to prevent overexposure to the sun’s rays. Since trails in Bryce Canyon traverse steep and rocky slopes, wear sturdy boots that provide ample support and protection.
Always remember that Bryce Canyon sits at a high elevation; lowland visitors must allow themselves time to acclimate to the elevation. Finally, do not overestimate your abilities or overexert yourself while on the trails.
It’s important to be prepared any time you leave the car and head off on a hiking trail. A stop at the visitor center to discuss your hike plans with a park ranger is always a good idea. It’s also important to have the proper supplies with you so that you can enjoy your hike in comfort and also be ready to handle an emergency, should one arise. You may find some—or all—of these items useful on your hike in Bryce Canyon National Park:
• day pack
• water and water bottles or hydration system
• food; high-energy snacks
• first-aid kit
• map, compass, and GPS unit
• sunscreen and sunglasses; wide-brimmed hat or ball cap
• rain gear
• warm coat, hat, and gloves
• backpacker’s trowel, toilet paper, and resealable plastic bags
• flashlight or headlamp
• camera and/or smartphone